Nouadhibou is the second largest city in Mauritania. It's a major fishing centre and large industrial port.


Boats in the fishing port

A key economic centre, it's home to roughly 90,000 people. Before independence, the town was called by the French colonists, Port Etienne after the first boat which arrived here, the Tienne. Since independence in 1960, it has been called Nouadhibou, which means Place of the Jackal. Many jackals used to come and drink water in a well. The town's three main parts are:

In 1990, the tarmac from Keran to Numerwatt was built - a distance of about 13 km. In 2000, The town centre roads were paved and Internet and mobile phones arrived.

In 2005, the highway between Nouadhibou and Nouakchott was completed. There is now a clean half-way stop at the 235 km mark built by a Moroccan business where you can get a fresh cup of coffee and tasty sandwiches as well as a tajine, a kind of meat stew. They also have separate toilets for men and women as well as a simple tyre changing shop. Nearby is the entrance to the Banc d'Arguin national park.

Nouadhibou without SNIM or fishing would not be the same. SNIM, the Société Nationale Industrielle et Minière, is the biggest company in Mauritania. The iron began being mined in the 1960s when they began building the railway which carries one of the longest trains in the world (2 km). Passengers can pay to sit inside a rail car or ride for free on top, which is quite the ride.

The other economic engine is the fishing industry. There are 3 ports: a commercial port (Port Autonome), a local fishing port (Port Artisanal) and the private SNIM port at Cansado for iron export. If you like salty air, sea food and fish, checking out the Port Artisanal can be a treat.


 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Daily highs (°C) 24.5 25.1 25.9 26.1 26.3 27.1 27.9 28.2 30.6 30.3 27.5 24.6
Nightly lows (°C) 13.3 13.7 14.3 14.7 15.8 17.0 18.6 19.6 20.1 18.7 16.5 14.3
Precipitation (mm) 1 2 1 0 0 0 1 3 5 3 2 0


Get in


By plane

Mauritania Airways flies several times a week between Nouakchott and Nouadhibou as well as to the Canaries. Top Fly also has flights to the Canary Islands.

By taxi

From Nouakchott, 470 km away there are frequent collective taxis (Mercedes taking 6 passengers). Prices start from 4500 ougiyas. From Nouadhibou ask for the official taxi station, the Gare Routiere at the town entrance, in Robinet 6. At the first roundabout coming in, turn left and it's 300 m on your left. Taxis like to leave at first light.

From Dakhla in Western Sahara there are collective taxis (11,000 ougiyas) and minibuses (8,000 ougiyas).

By car

There are two sealed roads to Nouadhibou. One connects it with the capital, Nouakchott. The other one goes to the border and further into Western Sahara. There is a 3km unsealed part between the borders, but it can be passed by a 2WD car without any problems. This is a no-man's land, policed by neither bordering country. Avoid making deals with anyone you might meet there.

Cars and sept-places run from the garage at the exit from town, near the train station. To Nouakchott - from 4,000 ougiya per person in a Mercedes (470 km, c. 6 hours).

Due to incidents, expatriates going overland have been advised to travel in groups during daylight hours only.

By bus

There are no regular bus connections from outside of the country. Between Nouadhibou and Nouakchott, however, there are at least five bus lines that provide daily runs. Most leave about 16:00-17:00 and arrive in the capital between 22:00-23:00. A few bus lines now have mid-day runs which begin around 11:00 to 13:00. Prices range from 3,000-4,500 ougiyas. Some of the better known bus companies are:

The train at Nouadhibou station

By train

There is only one train line in Mauritania, connecting Nouadhibou to Choum and Zouerat. It is used to carry iron ore from Zouerat mines to Nouadhibou port. Only one passenger car is attached to one of these trains daily in each direction. There is no strict timetable, but the passenger car typically departs Nouadhibou around 15:00. The passenger train station is located between Cansado and the town centre, across from the many coastal shipwrecks. Tickets for the passenger car to Choum cost 2500 ougiyas, but it's usually overcrowded. Travel in an ore hopper is possible and free. However, a scarf or other face cover is necessary, as there is lots of dust. The ore itself is not very dirty stuff. Be careful aboard the train as it lurches violently when accelerating or braking.

Get around

The down town area can be walked in under 15 minutes, so take a walk-about and see the sights.

Taxis are amazingly cheap, easy to get and everywhere. Taxi to the train station should cost around 300 ougiyas per person when it's full. One way taxi fares on the main roads in town are between 80 and 100 ougiyas. Taxis from the town centre to the Port Autonome area or Cansado are an additional 100 ougiyas. Two passengers are expected to fit in the front passenger seat and four passengers in the back seat. Men may be asked to move should a woman enter the car to help her maintain an appropriate distance.


The ship graveyard
La Guera's ruins


FC Nouadhibou, the local football team at Nouadhibou's Olympic Stadium


Boulevard Median, the main shopping street

The four largest supermarkets are:

The first three stores are on the main street within 200 metres of each other. Bon Marché and 28 Novembre face each other. You can find most things including cheese and toiletries. Prices are sometimes a bit expensive. Local corner grocery stores, good épiceries, may have everything you need. The market carries fresh vegetables as well as meat and fish. Staples, such as sugar, rice, milk, bread, yoghurt, bug spray, toilet paper, bleach and soap powder can be found in your local corner shop or boutique. Hamburger meat, and beef fillet can be found at the Tunisian butcher across the street from 28th Novembre.

Several banks in town have ATMs that accept foreign cards. There's a decent Forex or bureau de change at the entrance to Keran, the town centre, at the Carrefour crossroads. Ask for a receipt to avoid any problems crossing the borders next time you cross. They will photocopy your passport along with the receipt. Officially, you should leave your local ougiyas currency in Mauritania and not take them out with you. Smaller amounts usually aren't a problem.

Should you need help with your vehicle, look for El-Veteh Siddaty et Freres, a well known car parts store in Keran. Their manager speaks English and French and can help you find specialised mechanics such as for electrical problems. Their telephone is +222 574 5739. There are many other similar shops nearby.


As Nouadhibou is gifted with a big commercial fishing and traditional fishing port, there is a lot of fresh seafood and fish available. Many immigrants from Senegal run their restaurants here, serving fish with rice and other delicious meals. Average price is 200-500 ougiyas. If you like Chinese food, there are several restaurants on the lower road, which cater to foreigners.

For football, the FC Nouadhibou restaurant serves hamburgers, French fries and other hot sandwiches in front of several large TV screens. It's between the second and third robinets on the middle road.



Roofs of Nouadhibou




Stay safe

Sunrise in the town

Nouadhibou is a relatively safe city, but there are almost no street lights. Remember to take a torch when going out in the evening.

The biggest danger is undisciplined road traffic. Be careful, especially in the central area.

Do not cross the train tracks as many areas, even fairly close to the town centre, have not yet been entirely cleared of mines. Only surfaced roads past the tracks are absolutely safe. If you must cross the tracks, or do so with a trusted friend who knows the area or with a local authority.

Women generally stay indoors after dark. Going about town in groups is wise for both men and women. Local women are usually escorted by their male relatives at night. During the day, a woman will go about with at least a younger boy or another female friend. It's unusual to find a woman travelling by herself. As in any modern city, stay in places that have night security personnel and lockable doors and windows.

Parts of the town also has a reputation for prostitution, which is illegal in Mauritania.

Go next

Flying out by plane, your own vehicle in the day (along with other cars recommended) or on one of the nationally run bus lines are all excellent options. If you need professional travel services, there are several good ones in the central area.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, December 12, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.